Russia is using its Russia Today propaganda channel to conduct psyops involving former high-ranking intelligence assets.
Former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, known for her links to the Kremlin, will write opeds for the Kremlin’s Russia Today (RT) TV channel. Thus, Moscow compensated for Kneisl’s services, first in the Rosneft supervisory board, and now in the Russian media, involved in the information influence operations (psyops). Probably, these are the funding channels that had been agreed in advance by the parties in case the actor loses a senior position in government.
RT has repeatedly run psyops on Western soil, including those aimed at undermining the governments (“Yellow Vests” in France, protests in Catalonia, as well election meddling, including in the U.S. in 2016).
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In 2022, Moscow made an attempt to create a Balkan branch of Russia Today to radicalize the situation in the region and create levers over the governments in the region in the Kremlin’s geopolitical interest. The New York Times in 1947 announced the Soviet Union’s intention to engage in anti-American propaganda in Europe. The Putin regime is copying the ideas of the Soviet era, making adjustments based on the historical experience of such operations.
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However, the idea of creating a major TV channel dates back to the era of President Yeltsin. It was conceived by the PR chief at the Russian Presidential Administration, Mikhail Lesin, who proposed creating an own TV channel in order to convey the Russian interpretation of international events. It is obvious that the idea was actually implemented thanks to the developing digital and communication technologies and Russia joining the global information space.
The fact that the channel is run by Margarita Simonyan, who is affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Defense, previously led to the conclusion that the channel itself, as a psyop tool, linked to the Russian military intelligence, which is subordinate to the said ministry. However, at present we are seeing the involvement in RT operations of individuals who by multiple indications are likely to be the assets of other Russian intelligence agencies. For example, it is unlikely that Katrin Kneissl was ever affiliated with Russia’s military intelligence. Most likely, she was an asset of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service. If Russia Today were solely a Russian military intelligence project, it is unlikely that other Russian intelligence agencies could expose their assets and forward them to their military counterparts to be used in their psyops.
Thus, it is highly likely that Russia Today is an interagency project, supervised by the Russian President’s Administration and used to run psyops, based on the tasks set before the entire Russian intelligence community. Based on this, the channel’s content is formed in close ccooperation with Russian intelligence, which “highlights” and organizes various events, attracting former high-ranking speakers (from among the active or highly trusted ones) in order to boost public confidence in the channel’s reports among foreign audiences. It is also impossible to rule out the possibility that a number of operations are coordinated and supervised directly by Vladimir Putin, who has been known for interfering in tactical-level management of certain operations in the past few years.
To this end, the following figures are involved in the project:
former CIA operative John Kiriakou
Scottish politician Alex Salmond
British politician George Galloway
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador
While some of them may have not been recruited directly, all of them were undoubtedly highlighted by Russian intelligence to engage them in cooperation to further use them in psyops.
The conclusions that the media work is being directly coordinated by Vladimir Putin are based on the following facts:
– Simonyan repeatedly participated in events personally attended by Putin, which testifies to their continued contact.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin visits the new studio complex of the state-owned English-language Russia Today television network in Moscow, on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ POOL/ YURI KOCHETKOV
– Simonyan is a protégé of Alexei Gromov, Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, who apparently acts as an intermediary between the two.